It’s Spain’s fourth election in as many years, in which parties will cover and fight over the same ground they did in April.
The result will in all likelihood be the same, and the day after, the same problem will face Spain’s political class – the still unknown territory of coalition government.
This morning, Spain’s newspapers are talking of five long wasted months, which they claim have been absent of any real negotiations.
Acting Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez claimed victory in the 28th April general election, but well short of a majority, he was forced to go where no Spanish politician on the national stage had been before – finding a coalition partner.
Then followed on-off talks with the leftist Podemos party, which came fourth.
The two parties clashed not only over their often radically different policies, but who would get a seat at the table. Podemos’ leader Pablo Iglesias said the party wouldn’t just prop up the Socialists for nothing in return.
Neither party really moved from there for months, refusing to budge even as the clock ticked down to a deadline to find an agreement.
In the end, after a series of talks with party leaders, King Felipe XI last night said that no one candidate could find a majority in parliament to become prime minister.
In the weeks before, Sánchez raised the possibility of a minority government, supported on a policy by policy basis by Podemos. But they said no.
Podemos offered a temporary coalition government to get a budget through the Spanish parliament. Sánchez turned it down emphatically, in no sooner time it had been announced – in just a matter of minutes.
And then in a last-ditch effort, the centre-right Ciudadanos said they would enable Sánchez becoming PM by offering to abstain, subject to three conditions.
Sánchez said they had already been met, so there was “no real obstacle”.
But in the end, that failed too.
So Spaniards will be forgiven for feeling frustrated over having to go out to vote again – if they bother at all – in an election whose campaign will be a blame game, as leaders point the finger at which party made Spain ungovernable.
The blame game took no time at all in starting once again, as Sánchez confirmed snap elections would take place on 10th November.
He blamed the opposition for stopping Spain from having the government it voted for.
They claimed Sánchez had been just playing for new elections, knowing his party would likely gain in seats.
The far-left leader Iglesias tweeted soon after, saying “Pedro Sanchez had a mandate to form a government. But he didn’t want to. Arrogance and disdain for the basic rules of parliamentary democracy have come before common sense.”
That Spain has come to this moment is a harsh reality check of its new political situation these days – a polarised political spectrum, whereby its two long-standing centre-left and centre-right parties can no longer claim a majority.
From their diverging views on what to do with Catalonia’s ever-present push for independence to what to do with taxes and public spending, Spaniards faced a real choice at the ballot in April.
But with one poll suggesting just 7% of voters would choose differently, the same problems will plague the political parties.
A coalition will need to be found.
Spain’s institutions are strong enough that, without a budget being approved, they can survive. They’ve done it before. But political uncertainty means financial uncertainty at any cost.
Spain’s political leaders will need to act seriously this time, swallow their pride, forget the machismo and get around the table to talk.
There’s no time to waste and there will need to be compromise.
But with so much mistrust already, and very different ideas of what Spain’s future should look like, it’s unclear whether the men at the top of Spanish politics are up to the task of actually agreeing.